So here it is the official inaugural post! I’m so excited but still getting used to wordpress so bear with me. I’m a perfectionist and can’t seem to do everything I’d like so if anyone has any tips, I’m listening, just shoot an email. And of course I’d love any feedback, anytime about information I may leave out or anything else you think would help improve this undertaking. Thanks!
And we’re off….
For this post it seemed like a good idea to talk about this amazing theater in the next town over from where I live. I get really emotional when I see a building like this. I fall in love with it thinking about what it looked like, all the fabulous movies that played there and all the families dressed for a night out. Who were those people, what were the movies, and what did the interior look like? But this moment is bittersweet. After the intrigue is the uncertainty. Are we doing a disservice to our past by abandoning this piece of history? What is the future of this building? Never fear…. so far this one has a pretty good story.
- The theater was built in 1927 by Morris Handel and A.J. Rovner
- Opening in 1927- the theater showed silent pictures, opening with and was home to a 120 piece orchestra every Sunday. Later movies include Charlie Chaplin’s film The Circus Al Jolsen’s Jazz Singer
- The theater closed during World War II, but reopened in 1949 when it was renovated into a 1,200-seat first-run movie house.
- Director Steven Spielberg has ties to the theater. A resident of a nearby town, it is rumored that Spielberg was inspired to become a director after seeing the Cecil B. DeMille film, The Greatest Show on Earth, at the Westmont in 1952.
- Actor Michael Landon lived in a neighboring town and once served as a doorman for the theater in the 1960’s.
- On December 26, 1973, The Westmont was one of only 30 theaters in the U.S. and the only theater in New Jersey to participate in the ‘world premiere’ ofThe Exorcist.
- In 1986, the theater as a movie house closed but remained a viable building serving as home to repertory groups until 2000.
What’s happening now?
In 2007, local resident and filmmaker, Brent J. Donaway premiered his short documentary about the Westmont. It’s entitled The Grand Old Lady.
Neighbors Celebrating the Westmont is a local advocacy group for the preservation and restoration of the Westmont Theatre. They are advocates who provide support and non-financial assistance for the restoration of the Westmont Theatre and its use as a venue for the performing and film arts.
What’s that? You say you want to help?
If you’re interested in joining the NCW, want more information on the theatre, please use the contact form here. The group is currently in the process of becoming a non-profit, so donations will soon be accepted (never fear I’ll keep you posted). Additionally, if you have any questions I may be able to answer feel free to leave a comment or send an e-mail. This is a group I recently became involved in and am really excited about.